2020 a banner year for visits to Pennsylvania state parks

A sunny morning in December at Tyler State Park in Bucks County, Pa.
A sunny morning in December at Tyler State Park in Bucks County, Pa. Photo credit Marcello Sgarlato/Getty Images
By KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Pennsylvania state parks saw a record number of visitors in 2020, and the expectation is for a lot of people to return this year.

Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said people flocked to state parks in droves the past year seeking respite from the coronavirus pandemic in the outdoors.

“Forty-five million visits to state parks alone,” Dunn reported. “And, of course, that doesn’t count state forest land. That doesn’t count all the trails on state forest land. It doesn’t count local parks and local trails.”

Dunn said there was an increase of 8 million more state park visits last year for everything from hiking to camping.

“Anything that you could buy that related to the outdoors -- people bought kayaks, bikes, grills, camping equipment -- saw a big uptick in all of this,” she said. “A lot of people have said to us, you know, used to camp and they got away from it. Now they went and bought the equipment, getting back into camping. Some people got RVs.”

Dunn said the great outdoors provides plenty of space for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re fortunate here in Pennsylvania,” she said. “We have 2.2 million acres of forest land, 121 parks. We’ve got more named rail trails than any other state.”

And just because it’s winter doesn't mean recreational activity is slowing, Dunn said.

“People are turning to snowmobiling, ice fishing, hiking, bird watching,” she said. “All those things are really good in the winter.”

Dunn advises residents that now is the time to plan the next visit to a state park, particularly to go online to see what camp sites and cabins are avilable.

“You have a chance to learn more, explore more, build from the base of knowledge, read up,” she suggested. “Take some of the winter time to plan ahead for spring and summer. And if you do think you want to travel and stay at a state park in Pennsylvania, make a reservation early.”

Dunn also urged people not to miss out on the many activities, such as swimming and boating, available at the state parks in southeastern Pennsylvania during the summer months.